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On Raglan Road

    by Tom O'Brien


... rough charm and a hint of blarney ... it's real fun.
Kieron Quirke, London Evening Standard, August 2007


Synopsis

Set in 1950's Dublin, this play by Waterford playwright Tom O'Brien, is a story of poetry and poverty, love and addiction centering on the life and times of Patrick Kavanagh, the Irish poet. Regarded now as one of the foremost poets of the 20th century, he was born in the village of Enniskeen, Co Monaghan on 21st October 1904. The son of a shoemaker and small farmer, he moved to Dublin at the age of 35, where he lived in poverty for most of his life. He survived on handouts, bits of journalism, and being supported for a time by his younger brother, Peter, who was teaching in the city.

'On Raglan Road' is the title of Kavanagh's poem about his doomed love-affair with Hilda Moriarty. Hilda was a beautiful medical student, middle-class, and the daughter of a wealthy Kerry doctor; he (Kavanagh) was a penniless poet, uncouth and unwashed, of small-farmer stock – indeed, a small farmer himself, who had forsaken the plough for the pen. His finest poem, 'The Great Hunger', was so controversial that he was threatened with prosecution under the obscene publications act. Always a controversial figure, he was hated as much as loved in Dublin, and his long-running feud with Brendan Behan is well-chronicled. To Behan, he was’ the fucker from Mucker’, while Patrick maintained that the only journey Brendan ever made was ‘from being a national phony to becoming an international one’.

The play, which had a successful London premiere in 2007, and a UK and Irish tour in 2010, sets out to describe Kavanagh's life and his tortuous relationship with the splenetic Behan, and his relentless, but ultimately fruitless, pursual of Hilda, who constantly spurned his advances. A one sided courtship, a vitriolic hatred of another man of literature and a love of strong drink and rejection by the literati of Dublin turned him eventually into a bitter shell of a man.

Characters

Principals (2m, 1f)

  Patrick Kavanagh
  Brendan Behan
  Hilda Moriarty
  Optional 4th/5th actors as Policeman and Mother (otherwise played by Behan)


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